July 4, 2016    4 minute read

Education Matters: Latin American Populism And UK’s Brexit

No Lessons Learned    July 4, 2016    4 minute read

Education Matters: Latin American Populism And UK’s Brexit

Breaking the traditional rules of the game: instead of making a study based on numerical data and academic research, by going for a collection of several opinions from people belonging to different social classes, regions and with different ways to see life it is possible to try to give a feasible explanation of why lefties and socialist parties rose to power in Latin America and why the UK decided to leave the EU.

The Latin Lesson

Historically, in the 40s, charismatic leaders rose to power in Latin America often with speeches that appealed to big masses, glorifying the nation and above all making promises to the weaker classes such as reducing inequality and eliminating oligarchies. As decades went by, the political scenario did not change and in many countries such as Ecuador, Venezuela and Argentina (until the last election) it is still possible to see how powerful socialist leaders are. Paradoxically, populism hardly ever brought signs of great economic growth, yet people kept voting for those politicians. It is interesting to try to understand why people did not change their choices over time, and it seems that most of them kept believing in unfeasible promises. The great majority of those who did so, often due to their limited financial possibilities, lacked proper education, where education refers to a mix of academic knowledge and life experiences. The majority of well-off people, which coincided with the most educated class, was composed of many individuals who eventually had experiences abroad kept hoping for more liberal governments.

What Drove The UK Vote?

Focusing on the most recent events, it is crucial to understand what is going on in the UK. During the rainy days before the historical referendum, the London tube, which is probably not the best place to have business meetings or talk about the economy, turned out to be the best place to see how people with different backgrounds felt about the upcoming referendum. Apparently, most British people belonging to the working class or who hardly ever left the country wanted the UK to leave the EU, sadly often flaunting unconvincing reasons behind their choice. In opposition, most white collar workers actually saw the UK staying in the EU. The ones who opted to leave were in most cases people who had little understanding of the financial implications of a future independence, such as a subsequent real depreciation and loss in value of many British assets, and who had in many cases never left the UK showing little interest and, above all, knowledge of foreign countries. A recurrent argument to support their choice to put vote ‘Leave’ was stopping immigration, amounting to a distorted vision of what the EU is. The Union cannot be reduced to ‘an agreement to let people freely move from one place to another’. People who wanted the UK to remain seemed to be a lot more informed of the pragmatic advantages of their choice even when they had little knowledge about economics. Their ‘let’s remain’ view was mainly driven by having interiorised the famous motto ‘strength is unity’.

The purpose of the discussion is not to claim that people made wrong political choices, but to question the level of awareness behind them, hence if they would have been different had their backgrounds and level of education been higher. To sum up, would Latin America have faced a big wave of liberalism and would the UK have voted to stay if a higher share of the population had been more aware regarding politics and macroeconomics or had the population been just more open minded and life-experienced?

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